Tuesday, July 19, 2011

July 19: Getting in Shape and Having Fun

I'm sure this can't keep up. Doc Halliday did warn me that a couple weeks from now is the rough time.

On the other hand, I'm back at 25% "hematocrit," which I still can't pronounce, but which I do know means I get blood again today. Nonetheless, I went ahead and set a new standard on the exercise bike and walked a mile and a half this morning. On the bike, it was 1 mile in 3:24 (after a warmup) and 2 miles in 7:14.

If that doesn't seem like very good times, keep in mind:
  1. I've never been very fast.
  2. I have approximately half the red blood cells I'm supposed to have.
  3. The bike's seat can't be adjusted, and I'm just about hitting myself in the chest with my knees.

For all the incredible medical equipment they have here at Vanderbilt, not one piece of exercise equipment--there are three--is in full working order. In fact, only the one bike I'm riding even has a working screen. The other bike works okay manually despite the fact that nothing electrical works on it, and the arm machine is only manual. It, too, is beat up, though. You can't read its instructions or adjustment knob. You can read its manual speed gauge. You just can't understand it because you can't read the instructions.

I don't know what's supposed to be happening here, but this is like some dream vacation. I work on blogs and YouTube videos. I talk with some of the most wonderful people I've ever met. I spend time with my wife.

I miss the kids, of course, but on the other hand it's only gone one day without them so far! Until yesterday, they were here every day.

I guess being tethered to the IV pole is an inconvenience. And the plastic wrap over my right arm in order to shower is a serious inconvenience, as is threading the IV's through my sleeve in order to change my shirt.

I am fixing that last problem by having modified shirts sent from home. They've been cut and velcroed so that they can be put on without having to thread IV lines.

The nurse saw me walking this morning, and she said, "You're not walking; that's running." I told her, "I'm just faking the leukemia. I needed a break from work, and I heard 11 North had really great service, so here I am."

Some Stats

White blood cell count is down under 1 this morning. That would be really, really bad if that wasn't the point. I think the goal is basically zero. It was 1.3 yesterday. I think 4-10 is normal.

Hemoglobin is 8.4 or something like that. It hasn't been dropping. That number has a lot to do with how much I can exercise, because that's the molecule that carries the oxygen in the red blood cells. Normal for a guy is over 14.

The two numbers the doctors watch are the hematocrit and the platelets. The hematocrit is the percentage of your blood that is red blood cells, and it should be about 45 or so. At 25% or lower, they give me blood to give me a boost. The platelets are supposed to be between 150 and 400. (Yeah, big gap.) Mine's something like 33, though it was only 31 yesterday, so I guess I can still make platelets!

Platelets are really important because they are what create clots to stop you from bleeding. Below 20 is really dangerous and can lead to spontaneous bleeding and make it impossible to stop bleeding if it starts. The hospital, working with bodies like they are car engines or something, can give me just platelets, too.

It's weird how much they know. I suppose it's even weirder just how much is left to find out. We live in complicated bodies in the midst of a complicated universe.


  1. The shirts should be on the way. Marlene made me try one on yesterday to make sure there wasn't anything itchy or irritating against the skin where the velcro is. :-D Everything is good to go! They felt very comfy to me (and I have sensitive skin). She sewed all day on them. Hey, I'll be in Nashville Wed-Sun this week if you need me to bring anything from home. My parents are coming, my dad has a job interview! (can you imagine if they lived there? I'm trying not to get my hopes up...) Anyway, I don't know if a full out visit would be a good idea b/c Liv has had a green nose for a couple weeks and we've all had colds. Even though they seem to be gone, I'd rather be cautious. I might still be carrying something. So don't be offended if we don't visit - we're *not* coming because we love you! :)

  2. Yeah, the "care partner" told me today that people should be "well plus seven days." My white blood cell count is 0.9, so I'm real close now to being without an immune system at all.

    I have plans to do cancer fundraisers with shirts like that, which should be fun.

    Thank you, Marlene! Thanks to you, too, Allison. And yeah, it would be great to have your dad in the area. He might even grow to like us!